RGM INTRODUCING – WE INTERVIEW OXFORD ARTIST SHAVEN PRIMATES
What made you decide that music is a thing for you?
I grew up with it, so it was really just part of my make-up! My mum is a saxophonist and plays in jazz bands these days but in the 90s she was in rock bands and then an African dance band, and she would take me to most of her rehearsals and basically all her gigs in and around Oxford, so I got to know the scene at a really young age. I started writing music on the computer at the age of 11 via cubase and an Atari 1040ST, and got into writing various types of dance music, but before all that I was indoctrinated with The Beatles and Bowie from around 2 years old.
Introduce us to all the members and your musical history.
I’ll paraphrase/guesstimate some of these as it’ll take a while to get answers, but here goes:
Nick is our bassist, he grew up in central France and his whole family are musical, with both parents still in a jazz band today. Jarod is our drummer from Atlanta, USA, grew up in Tennessee, and it was his twin brother who was into the drums and introduced Jarod to it in his early 20s when Jarod was concentrating on guitar, and the drums just stuck with him.
Neil plays keys more recently, as in the last 15-20 years, but was more into composition in the 90s and got signed with a couple of singles released with A&M.
Tom is our guitarist, and he started at 15 years of age and is absolutely remarkable at it too, but don’t let him hear me say that… He was well into RHCP, his first band was a Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute, and he runs the rehearsal space that we have now converted into having recording capabilities.
And as for myself (I’m Mark, by the way), I think I’ve already introduced all that with the previous question! I’m a software engineer by day, but music has stuck with me as my primary passion.
Name me your 3 favorite Albums.
David Bowie – Low Jimi Hendrix – Electric Ladyland The Stranglers – Rattus Norvegicus
What was the first song you heard that steered you into a music path?
Probably “Help!” by the Beatles. I remember playing it on my mum and dad’s record player back when I was around 6 and putting it back to the start over and over. The action of that and experience still plays back in my mind like a videotape.
The music industry is the hardest industry in the world to progress in, How do you feel you are doing?
I think in terms of writing for it, we just have to let go of that and indulge in what we enjoy, because if we’re not enjoying it then we lose spirit. We can’t go about writing for what we expect people will want to hear because we’re then not doing it for ourselves. As Bowie once said “never play to the gallery” – it tends to produce what can be the least creative or fulfilling work.
I’m seeing a lot of debate about women not feeling safe at music gigs, any thoughts on what we need to do to help?
I think more men should know about this and spread the word amongst themselves, get to know what to look out for, and call it out when/if it happens.
As you develop as an artist and develop using socials what ways do you get new ears on your music? Any tips?
I read books, guides and blogs on what’s new to keep on top of it. I’m currently reading through “Fear of Music: The Greatest 261 Albums Since Punk and Disco” to make sure I get a good history and some ideas that take us back to forgotten roots, but I listen to the radio here and there to “steal” some modern concepts and wrap those in.
Tell us Two truths and a lie about you?
As a band, we built a record studio amongst ourselves that made us lose a keyboardist, nearly caused 2 divorces, and nearly broke up the band. Mark has a deep passion for the entire discography of UB40 and sings their karaoke-reggae laden songs every morning. And we’re all total reprobates.
What’s your thought on Spotify’s monopoly on the music industry?
I like to think it’ll disappear at some point when someone comes up with something that actually helps the artists behind it, fuelled by sheer frustration of its extraordinary lack in substance.
Do you sign up for any conspiracy theories?
Well, clearly, birds aren’t real. Surely you can see that they’re cybernetic organisms and that the government has replaced them all with surveillance robots, sent to spy on us all and our insignificant secrets? Wake up, sheeple!
Did you buy anything you don’t need during the pandemic?
A treadmill. It was a whole 2 years until we got back to going outside and doing stuff, then started using it when the whole thing was over.
What was the worst experience on stage?
Nothing that bad; just a couple were glorified rehearsals with 2 people in the audience.
Tell us something about each member that you think people would be surprised about.
Jarod has a passion for astrophotography, Tom doesn’t think he’s a very good guitarist, Nick is French and not South African despite his accent, Neil has recently developed an unusual fixation on rubber chickens, and Mark spends way too much time, money, or both, on everything in general.
What makes you stand out as a band/artist?
I think it’s that we don’t just pick a single style for any song.
I hear you have new music, what can you tell us about it?
“Birds Aren’t Real” is our latest album. It focuses on “alt. thought”, with an eye on all the conspiracy, denial, slander and doubt that’s going on in the world, as well as recent topics and some that have been known to be taboo like the thought process behind suicide, or what growing up with undiagnosed autism has been like for Mark vs his sons who are diagnosed and getting what they need. For this one, we went for a proto/post punk sound on some parts, along with some traditional and modern singing and musical techniques.
Talk me through the thought process of the new tune/s.
“Fade away” uses late 70s and early 80s elements of punk & post punk, breaking down into recent synth techniques and a chorus that grabs the emotion behind pressures of the modern age. Guitarist Tom Clark created the opening rolling intro riff and we built it up from there.
With “A Decision” we went for a gothic, early 80s sound and production technique, with symphonic, orchestral layers to represent the impact of the dire event of someone’s choice to end their life.
“Silicon Implants” is a run down of current observations, mentioning many current events and comparing it with historic knowledge to remind people of repeating the past. The line “Nazis Bad” is intended to reflect on the washing down of terminology in online arguments, alongside the excuse used to justify the Ukraine war, and how words are twisted currently so that known norms are shattered in the way that things aren’t what they seem so that second guessing causes it to be weaponised. The song refers to Nietzsche for his misrepresentation in starting WWII, Aldous (Huxley) for his signature book “Brave New World” which details how people become complacent to what’s happening in the world via technology, Rabia’s intentions in the Middle East versus how it’s rolled out to a power grabbing dictatorship, and Kafka rolling his eyes over the same thing Huxley predicted: a humanity that claims to know all that’s occurring in the world.
2 stories are told with “Unmasked”: 1 is from the perspective of an undiagnosed autistic child in the past who endured school despite none of it working for him, and that of a diagnosed autistic child who is getting the attention he deserves. The song is a praise to those who find their way in learning their difficulty, that they aren’t themselves broken, and that they can now be confident in being themselves. It uses a delicate verse to emulate the classroom, and gave the chorus an elevating yet ongoing feeling for the full impact of the chorus.
“Birds Aren’t Real” explores the viewpoint of an alternative truth that a person might latch onto, with a Spanish affinity for no good reason other than we liked it, and a sudden punk throwback for the chorus.
What was the recording process like?
We’ll keep this to ourselves; it was difficult, but we got there, and that’s what matters.
What was the biggest learning curve in writing the new tunes?
For this one, I took a big step back as I was largely dictating a lot with our first album so the others found their way with writing and putting it together, and I figured out a formula for vocals from what they gave. This was great, as I got to take a step back, but the learning curve was that they all had different expectations to how they prefer to do things, from having scratch tracks for each, MIDI / DAW files and chosen DAW’s, instruments, all sorts. I had to mediate a lot of the creative disagreements, but ultimately I think everyone was mostly happy.
Would you change anything now it’s finished?
I’d step in more to accommodate creative differences, and we’ll work to make sure we get stuff done more efficiently. These 5 tracks took 18 months, and I’m sure we could have done it in 9-12 months, but it’s a learning process.
Is there anything else you would like to share with the world?
We plan to gig in as many different parts of the UK as possible for this album, so please watch out for our names in your locals!